Attorney Feldman: Supreme Court ruling authorizes confession by torture
Updated: Sep 2, 2022
Since the July 2015 arson attack on the Dawabshe family’s house in Kfar Duma, Honenu has assisted many Jews accused of involvement with the crime. For a selection of posts describing Honenu Attorneys’ representation of defendants and GSS interrogees, click here. To familiarize our readers with the case, Honenu has gathered – click here – various articles and short videos on the subject.
Thursday, September 1, 2022, 17:05 Attorney Avigdor Feldman represented Amiram Ben Uliel in his appeal to the Supreme Court regarding his conviction in the Kfar Duma case. The conviction was based solely on a confession extracted from Ben Uliel after he was tortured while under interrogation by the GSS, and therefore Attorney Feldman sharply criticized the court ruling, which rejected the appeal. See below a video demonstrating one of the GSS torture methods.
Attorney Feldman (translation by Honenu): "The ruling that the Supreme Court handed down today has given authorization to torture as an acceptable means for obtaining a confession. The facts are simple: Amiram Ben Uliel was arrested, and with his arrest, an order was issued prohibiting him from meeting with an attorney. Ben Uliel maintained his right to silence for 17 days, and two days later the order would expire. The heads of the GSS ran to [now former] Attorney General [Yehuda] Weinstein and received tacit approval to implement physical acts that can only be called torture. However, in the clean language of the GSS and the court, they are called 'special means.' In fact, they are not special at all, but rather well-known torture methods used by authorities responsible for 'state security' in countries in which citizens live in fear, exposed to brutal interrogations and to courts that do not fulfill their role of protecting fundamental rights."
Attorney Feldman further emphasized that, according to law, the GSS has no authority to torture interrogatees: "The GSS does not have the authority to break the spirit of an individual by means of a series of painful, prolonged, and repeated actions, which are forbidden to be mentioned, even though they are nothing new. They have been customary in religious rites for hundreds of years for the purpose of revealing witches and as means of interrogation that cause former senior members of a regime to admit to treason. Beyond the pain caused by the torture, which dissipates, the main function is to shatter the illusion that a man is in control of his fate, that there is a separation between a man's face and the hand of the interrogator that painfully slaps it, the illusion that also in a security interrogation, the interrogatee retains his humanity. The Supreme Court in the case of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel ruled that the GSS does not have the authority to implement actions whose goal is to break the spirit [of an interrogatee] and to cause him to confess to the charges against him. Today, this law was erased from Israeli jurisprudence."
Additionally, Attorney Feldman stated that "the special means that were reviewed in the case of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel were much more moderate than those that were applied to Amiram Ben Uliel. With the encouragement, or at least the tacit approval, of the Attorney General, the GSS crossed every limit tolerable in a democratic society in order to extract a confession from Ben Uliel. In their defense, they submitted a detailed listing of the torture methods used on Ben Uliel for examination. On unclear grounds of concerns for state security, it is forbidden to publicize the listing. For the first time, I saw an organized listing of torture methods – how long each method was employed on the body of the interrogatee, how many times each procedure was repeated, and the various auxiliary aids that were designed to produce visceral pain. When I studied the document, which I was forbidden to copy or keep in my office, my hair stood on end. I understood that it was prepared by a brain trust of doctors, interrogators, psychologists, and apparently lawmakers, who used the tested and primitive methods whose purpose was to shatter the feeling of self of the interrogatee, to abandon him to the mercy of his interrogators.
"The torture did its job, and Ben Uliel confessed to the charges against him while being tortured and immediately afterward. The [Central] District Court in its great mercy invalidated the confessions extracted during torture and immediately afterward. However, the court authorized the admissibility of the confessions extracted by a GSS interrogator 36 hours after the torture had been completed, at the stage when Ben Uliel was two days away from the expiration of the ban on meeting with an attorney," stated Attorney Feldman.
Additionally, Ben Uliel's attorney noted that the effect of the torture had not abated within such a short time and left trauma for years. "The Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the [Central] District Court that 36 hours nullified the results of the torture and that Ben Uliel had returned to his full intellectual and emotional strength. [They agreed with the lower court that] this time, he confessed out of his own free will, and [not because of] the memory of the torture and the fact that the GSS interrogators hinted to him more than once that if he strayed from his confession that was given soon after the torture and invalidated, the interrogation would continue, the torture would resume, and he would find himself beaten again, hurt, and helpless against the GSS interrogators. The fanciful hypothesis that the effects of torture are erased from one's consciousness within 36 hours is baseless. People who have undergone torture at various levels of severity, including those applied to Ben Uliel, report prolonged trauma that is liable to continue for many years and in many cases leads to the suicide of interrogatees who do not succeed in overcoming the feeling of futility and helplessness that the torture leaves on their psyches."
Attorney Feldman, who for years has led the struggle against torture in Israel, stated, "With one swipe of a hand, the ruling negated all of the achievements of case law and of the protection given to the legal rights of an interrogatee, and abandoned GSS interrogatees to an unacceptable torture regime that is contrary to the UN Convention Against Torture, which defines torture as an act by which pain or extreme suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally caused to an individual for the purpose of extracting from him or from a third party, information or a confession. The UN Convention Against Torture obligates every signatory country to use effective means, legislative, administrative, legal, or other, to prevent abusive acts in every area under their judicial authority.
"After this ruling by the Supreme Court, Israel can pride itself on being among the few democratic and undemocratic countries, and possibly the only, that reveals that torture is an acceptable interrogation tool; it is acceptable to the GSS. And Israel can pride itself that the Supreme Court approves torture that led to a confession 36 hours later. The International Court of War Crimes defines torture as a crime against humanity. Accomplices to crime are likely to be the Attorney General who tacitly agreed to torture, professionals expert in the human body and psyche who created the recipe of torture, which on one hand extracted a confession, and on the other did not kill or seriously injure the interrogatee, the torturers themselves, and last but first in the order of responsibility, the courts that are willing to accept confessions that are the products of torture. We hope that the unacceptable ruling that stands in complete opposition to international norms, that left the Supreme Court today, will be canceled in another hearing, which we will request soon," concluded Attorney Feldman.
Duma case: Video demonstrates GSS torture method - Please click here for an explanation of the video in English.
GSS challenge: Recipe for confession - Torture leads to lies; Video credit: Shadow of a Doubt: Duma, see also on YouTube.